We all want to love and be loved, but can find ourselves cut off from fulfilling, caring relationships. How can we get the love we want? And how can we keep it fresh, alive and full of passion?
Here are specific skills to build more loving relationships. These skills were first expressed by Gerald Jud, a United Church of Christ minister, who created Shalom Retreats to help people bring more loving into their lives. I incorporate these skills into my work as a retreat leader, psychotherapist and meditation teacher. And I work to live into them in my personal life.
Gerald Jud was determined to help ministers close the gap between their preaching of love and actually living in a loving way. Many of the ministers he worked with were cut off from the authentic experience of love. Their words were not backed by genuine experience, and therefore fell short.
Love is about intimacy and intimacy involves closeness and often touch. And church leaders don't want too much touch because it can lead to more intimacy and...sex! A huge shadow of organized religion is inappropriate sexual relations between church leaders and members of their congregations.
(This is also a big shadow of psychotherapy and others in the helping professions. Unless a leader has done his/her personal work there is always a danger of misusing power.)
These skills are simple and may appear, at first, too basic and easy for you. They're not! Try them out and you may find these become the core skills around which you organize the rest of your life.
They are essential skills of awakening and of true wellness.
They bring us into the intimacy of the present moment and its full power, passion and aliveness.
1. Seeing: I do not look over or through you. I see you in your uniqueness.
Can we truly see another person? Or do we look at them but see our own projections, a player in our story? Learning to see another without all sorts of mental detours is a form of meditation that is the direct path to love. We do all sorts of deflecting, shifting out of the intensity of the present moment. And letting ourselves be seen is often even harder. You can begin to develop this skill by becoming more intimate with yourself. For help, go to my Intimacy Page and do the mirror exercise.
2. Hearing: I listen to what you are saying.
Do we really hear what our partners are saying or do we hear what we think they are saying? Listening is a skill and an art. The skill is in being present and spacious so that we are really there for another. I'm sure you've experienced the difference when someone is listening and present and when they are not present.
The art is to be able to listen beyond the words to the meaning underneath. Not what you think they mean from past experience or habit, but the meaning that emerges in the present. It's often helpful to play it back...to tell them what you heard. If you're not accurate the person will tell you. In listening and then expressing what you heard (not a parroting back although you can start out that way) it will deepen the experience, for both of you.
This deepening is stepping into the healing power of love.
To learn additional skills, including what to do when you have differences of opinions go to Building a loving relationship.
To find out about our retreats on increasing loving go to Grief, Loss and Difficult Emotions Retreats.
Jon Terrell, M.A., offers retreats for emotional healing in western Massachusetts and in Orlando Florida. He is also a senior trainer in Advanced Meditation. For more information or if you have a question, contact him using the form below.